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DVD Review

DVD cover

14 Blades


Starring: Donnie Yen, Wei Zhao, Damian Lau, Ma Wu, Sammo Hung and Kate Tsui
Icon Home Entertainment
RRP: £17.99
Certificate: 15
Available 16 August 2010

When the emperor commands that orphaned children will be gathered and forged into an elite fighting force, their potential for good or evil will lay in their master's hands. At the dawn of the Ming Dynasty, led by their commander, Qinglong, possessor of a box containing fourteen blades, eight for interrogation, six for execution, the Jinyiwei operate under their own laws. When the rebel prince Qing conspires to overthrow the Emperor Qinglong find himself on the run from his own men in a desperate bit to obtain the imperial seal...

14 Blades (2010 - 1 hr, 48 min, 35 sec) is a historical martial arts film directed by Daniel Lee who co-wrote the script with Abe Kwong. The film was nominated for two awards at the Hong Kong Film Awards for Best Action Choreography and Best Sound Design. Zhao Wei won two awards for her performance. The film stars Donnie Yen, Zhao Wei, Wu Chun, Kate Tsui and Qi Yuwu and is a reworking of a 1984 film, Secret Service of the Imperial Court.

Martial art films have been coming thick and fast at the moment, with barely months between the home release and an international DVD appearing, so it is little wonder that 14 Blades is barely six months old and here it is hitting our shores already.

Of course this all involves a little overkill with the best of the genre competing for space with the worst. The recent release of The Storm Warriors (2009) showed what could happen when style overrides content, so it was a pleasant surprise to discover a real human story at the heart of a genre film.

Donnie Yen stars as Qinglong (also known as Greed Dragon, on account of his tattoos), a man of the highest integrity. Unfortunately for him his fellow Jiniwei have thrown their lot in with the conspirators, forcing him to go on the run. With everyone after the imperial seal Lee presents us with a sumptuous CG enhanced land, through which Qinglong fights for the emperor and his own survival.

Like any road movie, the story not only tells of his struggle to defeat the conspirators, resplendent with the requisite number of fight scenes, scenes which for once are thrilling in their choreography and with only limited wire work. These bells and whistles work well enough to give the film pace, excitement and maintain the audience’s interest, but this isn’t the heart of the film.

Peel back the bunting and what we have here is a touching love story. Along his journey Qinglong meets the Justice Escort, who are ready to throw in the towel, due to their debts. He hooks up with them until they clash with a bunch of bandits, not an auspicious start but these two groups will soon become his firm allies. Qiao Hua (Vicky Zhao) is the daughter of the Justice Escorts leader, initially force to aid him in his quest. The lost orphan and the reluctant bride soon find that they have much in common, she is looking for a hero, someone to believe in, and he is searching for some meaning in his lost and lonely life. Through their travels the two fall in love.

The disc is presented with a nice clear 2.35:1 anamorphic picture, though the disc also has one of the clunkiest layer shifts that I’ve seen in a long time. Audio is either Chinese 2.0 Dolby Digital or DTS 5.1 with burned in subtitles, which are thankfully fairly unobtrusive. Extras on the disc are limited to the original theatrical trailer (2 min, 37 sec) and a ‘Making of’ feature (20 min, 50 sec) which is okay but its the usual smorgasbord of small clips and talking heads, which ends up as little more than an extended promo for the film.


Charles Packer

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